Sites of Globalization

Date of Submission: 31/01/2017
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Portugal to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Sagres and the “Terras do Infante”, Lagos, Silves (Algarve), Funchal (Madeira Archipelago), Angra do Heroísmo, Vila do Porto (Açores Archipelago)
Ref.: 6256


The “Places of Globalisation” bring together a shared legacy based on heritage, linked to the routes of the Discoveries; they form a network of different places and promote cultural exchange between peoples, thereby contributing to dialogue between cultures and projecting a dynamic concept of culture and peace. The cultural legacy of the Ancient World gave rise to the foundation of what would become the known as “New World”, whose main elements are: the beginning of a new type of international trade and a new stage in economic development; a new geography and knowledge of peoples; the pioneering spirit, the development of sailing and navigation; the collapse of physical and mental barriers as a result of the first contacts with regions and communities hitherto only existing in imagination and fantasy; the introduction of a new organisation of society and administration; new buildings (religious and defensive) and forms of artistic expression; cultural miscegenation and reciprocal influences, with the ocean being the main vehicle for the exchange of cultures and the progress of civilisations.

The interaction in a network of these different places linked by the sea led to new physical and mental routes being opened: to the west coast of the African continent, with support points in North Africa, through the occupation and settlement of the Atlantic islands, and the creation of an innovative model of the marketplace/trading post. These are the main landmarks for constructing a plural history, which witnessed the beginning of a new period in this geographical area.

Taken together, the “Places of Globalisation” represent a unique heritage in the world context as landmarks of the starting point of what was to become a new era for humanity. They are part of the collective memory of important historical changes, and are filled with names, experiences, narratives, times and senses, that are filled with stories and bear an anthropological deepness due to the real people and the memories associated with the launching of a true globalisation process.

Chronologically, the “Places of Globalisation” relate to the period beginning in 1415 with the occupation of Ceuta by the Portuguese, which had a turning point in 1463, when the intermediary trading centre resulting from the exploration of the African coast – the Casa de Arguim (House of Arguin) and the Casa da Guiné (House of Guinea) – moved from Lagos to Lisbon; and it ended in 1481, when private initiative was finally replaced by an effective regal monopoly on overseas trade, which created the conditions for the Portuguese and Castilians to finally show the Atlantic to Europe and the world in the explorations of the 1490s. The phase of globalisation corresponding to the “Places of Globalisation” covers the opening up of the commercial routes between the extreme south of Portugal and the west coast of Africa and the human occupation (colonisation) of the Atlantic islands. This process can be sub-divided into the following phases:

  • The movement started with the conquest of Ceuta (1415), the key to the whole Mediterranean Sea, as Zurara wrote, a naval base for controlling the Strait of Gibraltar; and for the 14th century Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun, it was “the ideal starting point for people participating in the holy war”. The occupation of other strongholds in North Africa followed.
  • A period of pure Atlantic privateering by members of the house of Prince Henry and on his initiative, which led to the occupation of the uninhabited archipelagos of Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde, and several attempts to conquer the Canary Islands and to round Cape Bojador (1434). New products appeared, especially the cultivation of sugar cane in Madeira, starting in 1452, which opened up a new segment of international business, archaeological evidence of which has also been discovered in Silves.
  • From 1443 onwards, slave trade and the first commercially acquired gold dust (in 1442) contributed to the beginning of a new cycle in Atlantic navigation. The first public sale of slaves happened in 1444, in Lagos, where later was created the House of Guinea, and the archaeological findings at Vale da Gafaria provide evidence of this trade. Also related to this trade is the Fortress of Arguin (Mauritania), established in 1449. Along with this trade was the search for western gold routes.

The elements of heritage corresponding to the era of the first Portuguese overseas expeditions in the Atlantic represent exceptional evidence of the start of a new economic geography, which was very different to what had preceded it.

They bear witness to a period in history which was the catalyst for new commercial areas for Europe and of the first real global international trade, which started in Lagos, continued in Lisbon, and was then continued by Castile and by the Spanish Monarchy in Seville and the Low Countries (Bruges, Antwerp); the process was concluded by the hegemony of the Dutch (Amsterdam) and the English (London), who renewed it with a new economic geopolitics, and from which they profited from the 17th century onwards.

Each of the “Places of Globalisation” comprises elements of great importance, and material and symbolic value, for the shared narrative associated with the global legacy that is safeguarded and enriched. In Portugal, the Barlavento (western Algarve) became the “first quay” – as it was emphatically called by the philosopher Agostinho Silva, and it was joined by places in the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores.

Sagres and the “Lands of the Prince” – In the southwest corner of Europe, the area known as the Vicentine Barlavento – or the “Lands of the Prince” – is a triangle bounded by the Ponta da Piedade and the Carrapateira promontory, whose southwest vertex divides into several promontories, including Cape St. Vincent, Sagres Point and Atalaia Point. The home of the gods, it was viewed in antiquity as the end of the known world, finis terrae associated with the Promunturium Sacrum described by Greco-Roman authors (such as Strabo, Artemidorus, Ephorus, Avienus), a mythical space where Hercules was worshipped (the Greek name for the Phoenician god Melqart). In its historical dimension, this cultural landscape includes one of the biggest concentrations of megalithic menhirs in Europe, the memory of sanctuaries such as the Igreja do Corvo, the most important place of pilgrimage for Christian Mozarabs between the 8th and 12th centuries, and Sagres, a place of myths and memories which long ago became a universal landmark and whose symbolic, historical and natural values give visibility to a place that celebrates and symbolises integration, ideals and universal history. On the Sagres Promontory stood Vila do Infante, the “Prince’s Town”, where Prince Henry lived and where he chose to die; for this reason, it is one of the physical places associated in the European and universal collective memory with the beginning of important historical changes such as the development of world trade, the interchange of human values, technical development covering huge areas of the world which started to communicate with each other, and the sharing of ideas and products. Sagres is related to other cultural assets of the extreme western Algarve, in a cluster that is especially important for European history: the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe (which evokes the religious dimension of the Discoveries and the rescue of captives on this frontier of Christendom); and a notable underwater cultural heritage which includes the visitable remains of shipwrecks that bear witness to periods of different conflicts in universal history and make the Vicentine coast a prime destination for diving in Europe.

Lagos – In its rearguard, Lagos had the geographical complex comprising Sagres (the town or estate of Prince Henry), Cape St. Vincent (monastery/fortress), Guadalupe (church supporting the rescue of captives) and Raposeira, which complemented the pioneering function of the quay of Lagos. The Portuguese started settling in the original centre of the city of Lagos from the 13th century onwards, and there is no record of an earlier medieval or Islamic settlement. In the 15th century, the village was the headquarters of Prince Henry’s commercial emporium, and the base for voyages of exploration to the west coast of Africa. In 1443, it received the first large group of black slaves captured by Europeans on the Saharan coast of Africa – remembered in the building known as the “Slave Market” and attested to by Zurara in his “Chronicle of Guinea”. The important role of Lagos in the slave trade is corroborated by remains found in the Vale da Gafaria rubbish dump, formed between the 15th and 17th centuries by continuous deposits of domestic waste, including a lot of organic material. The decomposition and dissolving of this organic material over the centuries meant that, at different levels in the ground, sometimes full of charcoal and ash, only the remains of fauna were preserved along with objects made of pottery, bone and metal. This exceptional and very complex stratigraphic collection was the subject of extensive archaeological excavations, and it was found that the site included the skeletons of 155 individuals, thus revealing the oldest burial site of black slaves in Europe. Even after the first phase of the Discoveries, Lagos continued to pay an important geo-strategic role: in the middle of the 16th century, following a design by Miguel Arruda commissioned by the Portuguese king, Dom João III, the city was equipped with the first bastioned wall in Portugal built using modern principles.

Silves – The sugar mill dating from the 15th century is one of the oldest still existing in the Iberian Peninsula. And it is especially noteworthy that it is located close to the structure that was most probably the governor’s house, inhabited by Prince Henry, a figure known all over the world for having been the prime mover of maritime exploration. The chronicle of the conquest of Ceuta was begun in 1449 and completed in Silves in 1450. Silves was the seat of the bishopric in the Middle Ages, but the main construction work that can today be identified in its old cathedral dates from as early as the 15th century; in the 1440s during the reign of Afonso V, the construction was given a major boost, and to do so, the original Gothic programme was simplified, which had perhaps been too ambitious for the economic resources of the diocese.

Funchal (Madeira Archipelago) – Conditions such as the climate, winds and tides and the terrain itself meant that it was mainly the south of the island that was developed from the settlement of the first colonisers (1420-1425) onwards. At the end of the 15th century, Funchal was one of the main urban centres in the archipelago and established itself as a commercially prosperous port. The trade in sugar (“white gold”) determined the rhythm of life of the local people and led to the development of an aristocratic urban centre which was organised between the boundaries of the Santa Luzia and the São João rivers. Magnificent buildings such as the Convent of Santa Clara (1492-1497) and Funchal Cathedral (1493-1517) date from this period.

Angra do Heroísmo, Vila do Porto (Azores Archipelago) – In the settlement of the Azores, two geographic areas of particular importance can be identified: Vila do Porto (Santa Maria) and Angra do Heroísmo (Terceira), which is already included in the World Heritage List.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The “Places of Globalisation” are places of enormous cultural value, both tangible and symbolic, that bear witness of the genesis of ocean expansion and the Discoveries and of new interactions among worlds and civilisations. This network of places established a new maritime route that brought together landscapes, cultures and symbols, but also scientific, technological, economic and social progress. In this space in time and place, a series of technological, geo-strategic and artistic innovations were established, which left their mark on humanity, thereby making the discovery of the “New World” possible.

The Algarve was “a first quay” which was at the origin of the creation of a global world through the actions of Europe in the coming centuries. This was the phase of launching Europe into the process of globalisation, which soon continued in places on the islands of Madeira and the Azores.

The new “liquid roads” brought together knowledge that the region incorporated in the preparation and opening of trade routes to the west coast of Africa and in the colonisation of the Atlantic islands, as well as the establishment of entrepôts to support this development in North Africa. These physical places are part of the European and universal collective memory associated with the epic story of the Discoveries and the start of important historical changes.

Criterion (ii): The “Places of Globalisation” played a crucial role in the emergence of modern technology and science thanks to the pioneering development of experimentation. Of particular note are the contributions in terms of universal knowledge of anthropology (the first scientific work on the other was written) and the marked development of the technologies of navigation and the innovations that increased contact across the open sea such as: the quadrant, the introduction of the caravel, the nautical manoeuvres known as the “Guinea return” and the “Mina return”. The wealth of knowledge and intercultural dialogue, developed in connection with the commercial exchanges and the movements associated with these quays of globalisation, gave rise to a wealth of heritage.

Criterion (iv): The “Places of Globalisation” are evidence of a period in the history of civilisation which corresponds to the preparatory phase for opening up the commercial routes to the west coast of Africa; it witnessed a series of incremental technical innovations such as the caravel (a ship which used a triangular sail – developed by Algarve sailors – which was capable of sailing to windward and had a hull that withstood the waves on the high seas – developed by the ship builders of Flanders), the quadrant (a nautical instrument that enabled latitude to be calculated by the stars and navigation out of sight of the land, through the creation of the “Mina return” or the “Guinea return” routes); the adaptation of artillery to the nautical context, with the appearance of the armed caravel; innovations in cartography; geo-strategic innovation with the colonisation of the Atlantic islands and their conversion into hubs for commercial traffic in the Atlantic; the creation of the first testing ground for colonisation in Madeira; the creation of a prototype marketplace/trading post (Island of Arguin off the coast of Mauritania).

Criterion (vi): The “Places of Globalisation” provide evidence of the discovery of the “New World” and of a conception of the world that changed from being centred on the Mediterranean to the world we know today, whose geography then began to be discovered in its entirety. The accounts of Diogo Gomes, Alvise de Cadamosto and Gomes Eanes de Zurara tell us about the lives, the customs, the clothes, the food, the trade, the social, economic and political relationships of the African peoples with whom they came into contact. Their accounts reveal important aspects of universal history and the mentality of the young European adventurers of the 15th century. Such reports not only refer to the events that occurred beyond Cape Bojador during the exploration period, but they also give us the first evidence of the awareness of and the amazement at the start of a new era, which we can today say was that of globalisation itself.

Myths and legends about the “cape of fear” being impassable were debunked and gave way to the knowledge of peoples, cultural diversity and a shared history of humanity. Also associated with the series of places included in the application is the appearance of the romanceiro, a traditional poetic/narrative genre linked to the Sephardis from the Iberian Peninsula resident in Ceuta and North Africa; there is documentary evidence of the genre from 1421 onwards, and it still survives today in the Algarve, the Azores and Madeira.

The slave trade on a global scale, notwithstanding the suffering they inflicted upon thousands of people, also contributed to the establishment of globalised routes, bringing about major changes in societies worldwide.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The sources of information about the value of the heritage proposed are credible. The knowledge and understanding of sources of information is taken into account with regard to the original and subsequent characteristics of the cultural heritage proposed, as well as its significance over time.

The aspects of heritage that have been put forward are associated with plans for protection, conservation and safeguarding by the bodies that manage and own the heritage. Some of the places and associated assets have been the subject of work and significant public investment and are already classified and covered by protection areas. A narrative surrounding the “Places of Globalisation” has been jointly developed and includes suggestions for interpretation and the establishment of museums in the near future, such as the Slave Museum in Lagos and the Sagres Fortress Exhibition Centre. A Discoveries portal (Descubritter) is part of the project for interpreting and raising awareness about this common heritage and its values.

There is a commitment on the part of the different bodies involved in the “Places of Globalisation” to contribute to the conservation of the moveable and immoveable assets associated with this heritage, and to construct a shared narrative associated with this unique legacy that contributed to the foundation of a “New World”.

The creation of a documentary collection about these places is one of the activities planned, as well as the establishment of an annual scientific congress to share good practices about research, protection, safeguarding and enhancing the associated heritage.

Comparison with other similar properties

The site “Places of Globalisation”, which may also become a serial transnational site, brings together a series of places that are of exceptional universal value from the historical, ethnological and anthropological points of view, which can be compared with two other examples among others, with similar features:

- Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Mexico and USA) – a road covering 2,600 km, which stretches from the north of Mexico City to Texas and New Mexico in the USA. It comprises 55 places recognised as World Heritage. Known as the “Silver Route”, this road was used between the 16th and 19th centuries to transport silver extracted from Mexican mines and mercury imported from Europe. Apart from being a commercial route, it was also a place for creating social, cultural and religious ties, especially between the Spanish and Amerindian cultures.

- Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern Spain – a network of pilgrimage routes that link a series of ancient routes to Santiago de Compostela. Also linked to the routes are a number of bodies, autonomous communities, and different types of heritage that have the original pilgrimage routes in common.

There are similarities between the maritime routes that were initially developed from the Algarve and the above routes, because their heritage includes elements of religious and artistic heritage, and an evangelising aspect, but above all because they trace routes of confluence, and of cultural and commercial exchange. The justifying criteria come under the same headings.